Tent City to Become Rehab Center


Since the infamous Tent City was recently shut down, Sheriff Paul Penzone announced that an air-conditioned space previously apart of the jail will be turned into a facility to help treat those suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Transforming Tent City into a rehabilitation center is apart of an ongoing effort to help keep repeat offenders out of the prison system and will help them live normal, productive lives.

The rehabilitation center will have space for classrooms and places to sleep. Sheriff Paul Penzone recently spoke about the new facility and said, “we want to ensure that [chronic offenders] have an opportunity to be productive, to not return here to this jail. I hope that all those in our community recognize the investment that we are making to become a more holistic Sheriff’s Office.” Penzone hopes to reduce the rate of recidivism and come up with solutions that will get to the root of the problems many repeat offenders face such as drug addiction and mental illness.

There are also plans for a proposal that would include an employment center for inmates, as well as a community corrections center. Both of these announcements quickly followed the retirement of Tent City. Not only will the changes being made help repeat offenders in the long run, it will also reduce spending by almost $5 million each year. Penzone also hopes that the investments being made will decrease crime rates in Arizona.

The rehabilitation inmate program is seven weeks long and will help inmates to identify early trauma and patterns of behavior. These services will benefit many people who most likely do not have the resources to visit specialists on their own. Once the program is over, the inmates will be given resources to help make sure they have opportunities to succeed when they are out in the real world.

Posted in Arizona, Drug Crimes, Law Enforcement, Mental Health, Violent Crime | Tagged , , , , |

Arizona Prisons Struggle with Rise in Inmate Self-Harm


As the mental health care in state prisons becomes increasingly worse, more and more inmates are attempting to harm themselves. New reports on inmate self-harm have come in as a result of the ADC attempting to settle a lawsuit over poor health conditions in state prisons. According to the data, hundreds of inmates in Arizona prisons have hurt themselves and tried to take their own lives this year. 

Mental Health in Arizona Prisons

Inmate self-harm has increased dramatically in the past year due to the lack of mental health care in state prisons. According to the ADC report, total incidents have increased by 70 percent. Over 80 inmates have tried to hang themselves and more than 138 have tried to overdose. The number of inmates using blunt force trauma such as banging their head against the wall of inserting sharp objects into their bodies to harm themselves has also almost tripled in just one year.

What this problem comes down to is the understaffing of health-care professionals in state prisons. For example, the state prison in Douglas, AZ has no medical director and just one psych associate. There’s just not enough care about mental and physical health in the state prison system and therefore no one is worried about getting resources into the prisons to help people get better. 

The state prison in Phoenix, which was designed for seriously mentally ill inmates, has less than half of the psychiatric staff that was supposed to be employed there, as well as having no psychiatric director and no mental health director.

In attempts fix the self-harm problem, the state is now training personnel on how to handle inmate self-harm incidents. They have also started a program to help watch and transition inmates back into the population after they’ve harmed themselves.

According to the ACD, the year 2018 is already on track to be the worst in inmate self-harm.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , |

Arizona Moving To Add AHCCCS Five-Year Limits


Arizona is moving to tighten requirements for Medicaid eligibility. It could become one of the first states to impose work requirements and five-year lifetime limits on “able-bodied” adult enrollees. While this plan has been delayed for over 5  months, the Trump administration appears to be favorable to the plan and the state hopes to get their answer in 2018.

What Does “Able-Bodied” Mean?

Abled-bodied is defined by the law as anyone over the age of 19 who is mentally and physically capable of having a job. Under this new requirement, anyone who is judged to be mentally healthy enough to work a job can only be covered by Medicaid for 5 years in their entire life.

There are exceptions to the able-bodied requirement for people in certain circumstances. These exceptions apply to anyone who is still in high school at or after age 19, sole caregivers of children under age 6, anyone who qualifies for the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS) and anyone already receiving long-term disability. For people with the above circumstances that may be able to be insured by Medicaid for longer than 5 years.

What Does This Mean For Mental Health?

If you are determined by a medical health care professional to be mentally unfit for employment, you can still apply for Medicaid and may be eligible for longer than five years. The draft of the new law is not specific enough yet to list what determines a person’s mental health status. It does not exempt people with disabilities and mental-health issues.

Other Provisions To The Law

The draft of the new law contains other provisions for people who are eligible to receive Medicaid. They include:

  • Enrollees would be required to verify that they are meeting the work requirement and any changes in family income on a monthly basis.
  • The ability to ban enrollees for a year if they knowingly fail to report a change in family income or make false statements about their compliance with work requirements.
Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , |

Mental Health Stigmas


Estimated to affect one in four Americans on average, mental illness is often considered to be a silent epidemic. Mental health stigma is a term used when people experiencing mental health issues are perceived negatively because of their condition, and may even face discrimination. Continue reading to learn about ways in which mental health is stigmatized, why this may make treatment more difficult, and what can be done to change society’s outlook on mental health.

How is Mental Health Stigmatized?

Mental health stigma exists in the workplace, in social settings, and even at the doctor’s office. People suffering from mental health issues generally hide their illness from coworkers in fear of losing their job or the respect of their peers. When people learn their significant other, family member, or friend is suffering from a mental illness, they may subconsciously withhold contact or look at them in a less favorable light. Studies also show that doctors are much less likely to follow up with patients battling depression compared with patients battling a physical illness.

Why Does Mental Health Stigma Make Treatment Increasingly Difficult?

Mental health problems do not discriminate and can affect anyone. People suffering from mental health issues may find themselves in a cycle of unstable relationships, difficulty finding and keeping jobs, and even homelessness. Finding a treatment plan that works can be difficult enough without having to deal with the constant fear of rejection and humiliation which often comes along with mental illness. People may avoid treatment in fear of people discovering their mental illness. When people suffering from mental illness feel ostracized, this acts as a catalyst for their condition to become worse.

What Can be Done to Prevent Mental Health Stigma?

In order to put an end to mental health stigma, people need to be educated on the various forms of mental illness. Many people assume mental illness sufferers are dangerous and violent, creating untrue stereotypes and judgements. Schools and workplaces need to improve mental health programs to educate the public and provide support for people who are suffering from mental illness, as well as the people who are affected by it.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , |

Bernardo Garcia is Phoenix’s Attorney of the Month, July 2017


Providing Justice for Phoenix-area Mentally Ill.

Bernardo’s Criminal Defense practice is unique in the Phoenix area. He is featured as the Attorney of the Month. Read his story online on Attorney At Law Magazine  or download the PDF.

Attorney at Law Magazine, phoenix mental health defense attorney
attorney at law magazine's attorney of the month

Posted in Arizona | Tagged , , , |

New AZ Supreme Court Ruling On Insanity Defense


A new Supreme Court Ruling was decided earlier this month that says a defendant pleading insanity and voluntarily undergoing a mental health exam must provide the results to the prosecutor of the case.

The ruling also states that the defendant with a mental health defense must include a statement about their impending charges. The prosecutors are not allowed to use this statement to prove guilt but they are able to use this statement to rebut the defendant’s insanity claims.

The new ruling calls into question whether requiring disclosure violates the defendants’ Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. But the ruling released by the Supreme Court states that no rights are violated by this decision. This is because defendants claiming insanity have waived their protection against self-incrimination.

The ruling was issued in the case of Josh Rasmussen awaiting trial in a 2013 Glendale homicide case. The decision was unanimous.

What Does This Mean For Others With A Mental Health Defense?

Claiming to be insane during the time that you committed a crime is not always an easy thing to do. In claiming that, you are saying that you did, in fact, commit the crime. But you are also trying to prove that you were not in your right mind when the crime happened and that you’d like to get treatment rather than be incarcerated. It’s not a get out of jail free card and it’s not taken lightly.

Now, with this new ruling, you must give all records from you mental health exams to the prosecutor of your trial. If you are mentally ill, the records will show that. If you have a good mental health defense attorney on your side this will only help your case. Contact us if you need an expert on your side.

Posted in Arizona, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , , , |

La Paz County Votes To Lower Mental Illness In Jails


A unanimous vote taken by the La Paz County Board of Supervisors early this month will commit them to a national incentive aimed at reducing the number of mentally ill people in county jails.

Stepping Up Initiative

La Paz CountyStepping Up is a national initiative dedicated to reducing the number of people with mental illness in jails. Each year in the United States, there are an estimated 2 million people with mental illness admitted to county jails. Jails now house more mentally ill people than psychiatric hospitals.

This creates a number of problems that Stepping Up is dedicated to fixing. The majority of mentally ill people winding up in jail suffer from drug and alcohol problems, and they are more likely to return to jail upon release than those without these illnesses.

Jails spend two to three times more money on people with mental illnesses, costing taxpayers even more. Although resources are limited and a great amount of change is required to improve the jail system, Stepping Up is the first step to improvement.

The county’s decision makes La Paz the 15th Arizona County to join the Stepping Up initiative and makes Arizona the first state to have all of its counties join.

A board member of David’s Hope, a mental health advocacy organization that leads the Arizona Mental Health Criminal Justice Coalition, Steven Harvey said that this is only the first step. A lot of follow-up work has to be put in by everyone involved. The county’s next steps are to begin working with their mental health system on ways to treat people with mental health illnesses that have committed a small crime. The goal is to get them into a treatment program where they can recover, rather than sticking them in jail where they’ll just get worse.

Mental health care centers are already ready to work with the county’s jails in treating adults with mental illness.

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Tucson Police Will Be Trained in Handling Mental Health


Police officers in Tucson have begun to receive training to better handle mental health crisis calls. Chief Chris Magnus said that 500 officers are expected to complete training by the end of the year. This puts the Tucson Police Department ahead of the rest of the country in mental health training.

Mental Health Support Team

Tucson Police DepartmentThe police department’s Mental Health Support Team are the personnel responsible for going out to de-escalate a crisis in a serious situation, but they are not typically the first responders. Tucson PD aims to have all their patrol officers trained on how to handle mental health crises because they are typically the first to respond.

In the past two years, officers transported 4,060 people in crisis for mental health evaluations and treatment.

Criminal justice workers, law enforcement officers, and behavioral-health experts in Pima County all came together to discuss treatment rather than jail terms for those suffering from mental health and substance abuse at a Decriminalizing Mental Illness conference.

“Two million people a year with mental health and substance abuse issues are incarcerated nationwide. Jails have become de-facto mental health institutions,” said Magnus

The officers will take an eight-hour course that covers situations including how to deal with someone having suicidal thoughts, depression, panic attacks, traumatic events affecting adults or children, acute psychosis, aggressive behavior, and those undergoing substance abuse and need emergency medical treatment. Magnus said there is already a waitlist for officers who want to complete the training.

The people the TPD offers help to are not just people on the street, they are families and friends at every socioeconomic level.

Magnus plans on having every officer on every level of the department trained on mental health crisis, including detectives, dispatchers, supervisors and remaining staff members

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Mentally Ill More Likely To Spend Time In Prison


In today’s prison system, the mentally ill are more likely to spend their time in jail than getting help for their condition. And the prison system has failed its inmates with mental disorders more times than not.

Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons

jail cellAbout 400,000 inmates in the U.S. prison system are estimated to be mentally ill. Many times, the person’s disorder is responsible for landing them in prison, and then they continue to go without treatment. This cycle can continue on repeating itself for years without the proper treatment.

People who are mentally ill are ten times more likely to be incarcerated than hospitalized. During a panel discussion hosted by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., it was stated that the mentally ill inmate population is equivalent to the entire population of Oakland, California. It was also stated that an average of 5,000 people with serious mental illness are booked into jails per day.

These people end up getting arrested for crimes ranging from small to large, such as trespassing or violent felonies. The most common mental illnesses in U.S. prisons are schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, which will only get worse without the proper care.

Post-jail treatment

When mentally ill inmates are released from jail they are at a higher risk of being convicted of another criminal offense. Housing and employment are the biggest challenges for the mentally ill when they are released from prison. What these people really need is a place to learn how to cope with their illness so they can survive in the real world.

The best solution is to get them to work with a psychiatrist after being released from jail who can help them get a job and find a place to live. Programs like that are what’s lacking from the system.


Posted in Mental Health | Tagged , , , |

Life In Prison For The Mentally Ill


For a long time now, prisons have become dumping grounds for the mentally ill. With inadequately trained staff and far too little resources, prison is not an appropriate place to throw people with psychiatric issues. Most inmates end up suffering from isolation, deprivation and violence while their mental health goes untreated.

Not only does prison stunt a person’s treatment but it often times makes their mental illness worse. Being ignored and forced into solitary confinement is the worst thing for people with disorders like depression disorders and schizophrenia.

prison cells

Because prison guards have little training on how to handle people with mental illnesses, they often times result in violence to get inmates under control. A 55-year-old inmate with schizophrenia who charged a guard while accompanying him to the shower was tased twice causing him to fall to the floor. The guard then continued to try to reprimand the man by straddling him and pounding his face with his fist. The prisoner was taken to the hospital where they found he had 8 facial fracture that were similar to what one might get in a high-speed car crash.

Another inmate was beaten so badly after threatening a guard with a food tray that he couldn’t walk after. Six hours later he was taken to the ER where they found he had a shattered hip socket and a dislocated hip. Once returned to the prison he rarely received medical treatment for his hip because he was being disciplined or was deemed too dangerous because of his mental condition.

Many people who enter prison with a mental illness leave with a condition that is even worse. They also tend to end up going back to jail and the cycle never ends.

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